In 2020 I was privileged to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem a couple of days ahead of the first “lockdown”. It was a shocking visit to modern day Palestine to see immediately in the vicinity of the birth place of Jesus the poverty, and the discrimination towards a local people robbed of their dignity, prosperity, and hope.
Today isn’t a day to chat politics, we can do that tomorrow… but it is a day to remember that injustice surrounds even the birth place of the Prince of Peace, the Son of Righteousness and that injustice exists in our species not only still in Bethlehem but here also.
The birth of Jesus has led to all sorts of great philanthropic acts and enlightened thoughts which have led to changes in our world. But the birth of Jesus initially of Jewish concern and wonder, soon with the arrival of the visitors from the East becomes as a concern and influential moment for all of humanity. For God is not and cannot be limited, neither can he look only to his ancient people for renewal within creation.
In the Gospel story we have just heard, the first to visit the Lord in his Crib were the outcast shepherds who encountering the mighty throng of heaven – They chose not to remain in the fields, they choose not to turn a blind eye to the wonders of the Lord, they choose not to stick with what they know and which gives them a familiar security. They wanted to embrace a vision, a message, and the potential of something transformative and new.
The Birth in Bethlehem is the annual invitation to each of us to consider something new, and as we brush off the past year as we do each year – and disrobe ourselves of those trappings which keep others down, poor, or in their place. We too hope that others will give us another chance and even allow us the potential to flourish.
Call me naive and foolish to believe in the promises of God and the hope of this birth – but can we not consider something new this day. And see and end to poverty, oppression and the things we do which limit and hinder others? Will we give a little of our comfort to see others flourish and age old battles be transformed and hindrances cease.
What Child is this, who laid to rest, On Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ, the King, Whom shepherds guard and angels sing: Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!
What is this child who we celebrate this day. And Who is he to you? Let us look in these days to choose anew the potential for something new and turn away from those things which are limiting and see one another (ourselves made in the image of God) as children of God. Amen